Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How it Goes--Success with Kindle Select

Well, the new Kindle Select program is a resounding success. Every book that I've made available for free has hit the top 100 lists in various genres (these are the top 100 out of 15,000 free books). Most of them were in the top 30, and one was as high as 17. My sales figures are in and my income has not just doubled, or tripled, or quadrupled--it is TEN FOLD. The number of books I have had downloaded is around 12,000. I made more than triple in sales in the first two weeks of January than I made in the last three weeks of December. And this is before I can divine the feedback from all those readers who got the books and who might come back for more of my titles. That story won't be told until months down the line...

Like many authors, I took the chance on giving away copies of my work for free and just as Kindle/Amazon promised, it makes more money for the writer. I have great expectations for all these numbers to rise and to keep rising. One of my titles, the one most downloaded, WIREMAN, has continued selling at a brisk rate once it stopped being free. It's holding its own as a selling title and that's a wonderful thing to see.

In a week or so I should have up a digital copy of NIGHT CRUISING (originally titled Night Cruise) that won an Edgar nomination. It is one of my back list titles. As I work on it now I feel the book was one of my best so I'm excited about getting it back into circulation. I noted this week that the venerable writer Ed McBain's back list titles have gone digital and maybe a dozen of them are on the Top 100 Bestselling list for Kindle. Like McBain, I'm happy to get my novels back into print and into digital for a whole new generation of readers.

Now no one can say this isn't work. Not the program itself, because it only takes one click to enroll a book in the Kindle Select program. But the work comes in trying to make sure the books have striking covers (something I keep changing), the formatting is correct (on one book I had a problem I had to correct), and deciding on a promotion plan. When you have just a few books, 3-5, there's not much to decide, but when you have 16-17 or more, you wonder if you should make a short story and a novel for free that weekend, or two novels, or just one--maybe three at once. Should you make it free for 2 days or 3 or more? Then it comes to juggling the promotions. Not only what books to offer, and how many days, but over a three-month period when you have 5 days per book for promotion, should you fill the pipeline every weekend? Every two weeks? When? I have enough titles to do promos every weekend, but maybe once it a while the promos should run during the week instead? Who knows.

We are all working from instinct. No one is an expert in this grand new experiment, and I'm sure not claiming to be one. I am trying to be as serious and methodical as I can to get the most exposure from the promotional program as possible, because that's why so many of us are doing this. But the decisions can be difficult and confusing. We are all flying by the seat of our pants.

There are success stories happening all over the place for everyone--not just multi-published authors with back lists that were published by New York houses, but new authors too, who are hitting it out of the ballpark on their first forays into the Select program. One writer had a book downloaded 10,000 times in 48 hours, and as far as I can tell, except for Joe Konrath--who is a force unto himself--that's record-breaking.

We are all excited and the great thing is how many of us are talking openly about how it is working out. Writers are picking up audiences, new fans are being found, and money is beginning to go into authors' pockets where before it went into publishers' pockets. It's a good day for the writer.

The program is a success. I'm about to go all-in.


  1. Glad to hear it's worked out so well for you, Billie! Would you say from your data that short stories or novels are more popular? I'm betting full novels get more mileage when they go free. I've only had my novella up, but I'm considering doing it with my novel for one 90 day period to see what happens.

  2. I currently have one novel published. I set up the free promotion for the five day period, but after seeing so many downloads of my novel for free, I ended the promotion after a 24 hour period. My novel was downloaded 2,444 times in the 24 hour period. I am not sure that I understand how giving away my novel is going to help sales. If I had other novels to offer like yourself, I see the benefit and how it can greatly increase sales. Do you have any insight on how the free promotion can help an author with one novel? Thanks!

  3. That's what I was saying, how if you only have a few titles, it might not help much. On the other hand if one book were to go viral and get some crazy downloads, it could catapult it onto the Bestseller lists after the free promotion. If I had one book, like you, I don't see a lot of good it is going to do because the readers have nothing else to buy from you and they'd already have the one book free.